UK workers now place greater importance on their mental health than their physical health according to new research released today by Unmind, the workplace mental health platform.
The research*, which analysed 2,099 UK adults, found that two thirds of workers (65%) consider their mental health to be very important, compared to less than half (44%) considering their physical health to be of equal importance.
Compiled in partnership with YouGov and released to coincide with World Mental Health Day 2019, the study examines awareness and tracking of mental health in the workplace.
Often when discussing workplace mental health, mental health is conflated with wellbeing. Before each question was a reminder of what is meant by mental health in this context: "by 'mental health', we mean your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing". Questions in the survey included:
- How important, if at all, is your mental health to you personally?
- To what extent, if at all, are you confident that you know the most effective ways to look after your mental health?
- How regularly, if ever, do you use technology (e.g. apps, digital diaries, etc.) to track your mental health?
Mental health still costs British companies £34.9bn annually (Centre for Mental Health 2019), an average of £1,300 per worker. However, today’s research shows that workers are starting to appreciate the importance of effective mental health management, and that after decades of stigma, the conversation around mental health is positively changing.
Nearly one in five UK workers (18%) now actively track their mental health. Whilst this is still less than those tracking their physical health (50%), it is an encouraging rise in the number of employees and employers recognising the importance of workplace wellbeing. This may come as no surprise, as traditionally tracking mental health has not been widely accessible or aspirational- a problem that Unmind is looking to address.
The research examined attitudes towards mental and physical health across a number of different demographics. It showed that women put a slightly greater importance on their mental health (72%) vs for physical health (54%), and that working women are more likely to track their mental and physical health (22% and 53%), than men (14% and 47% respectively).
Surprisingly, older workers are more likely to recognise the importance of mental health and take active steps to improve it but less likely to take active steps to track their mental wellbeing through technology than their younger colleagues.
The research comes shortly after REBA (Reward & Employee Benefits Association) announced that mental health is now the number one area being addressed by UK employees in their wellbeing strategies, with 83% of employers now including mental health within their wellbeing strategy. 2019 has seen increasing awareness of workplace wellbeing, with companies understanding the importance of empowering their employees to proactively improve their mental health, alongside other areas of wellbeing.
Dr. Nick Taylor, Co-Founder of Unmind, comments:
“Our mental health is one of the most incredible things about being human, and a healthy mind is an influential factor in fulfilling our potential. As the workplace evolves, employers increasingly want people to bring their authentic selves to work and contribute with their personalities, experience and instincts, as much as their skill set. For that to happen, it is essential that organisations look after not only the employee, but the whole person, and that includes mental wellbeing inside and outside of the workplace.
By tracking our mental health, we can begin to appreciate which areas of our life are going well and which areas we may need to give greater attention to. This is what being proactive means. When we feel our mental health is thriving it positively impacts all other areas of our life, and means we’re in a strong position to contribute fully to the world around us. Ultimately, when this happens, everyone benefits- including the organisations we work for.”
Mira Magecha, Interim Chief People Officer, Just Eat comments:
"When you’re not feeling at the peak of your mental fitness, negative feelings or challenges can be enhanced or magnified. Finding ways to support our people to proactively manage their mental wellbeing is really important to us and Unmind is helping us to do that. We wouldn’t be where we are without the awesome people that make Just Eat what it is; and supporting our people to bring their full selves to work, whatever that may be, is essential to our success. It’s important to us that psychological safety is at the forefront of our wellbeing framework to give our people the opportunity to flourish and enable them to make mental fitness a priority."
Ed Airey, Group Reward Director, William Hill comments:
“People expect online access to products and services at any time wherever they are, even more so in a digital organisation like ours. Unmind ticked all of our boxes when it comes to looking at wellbeing partners – we are completely aligned with how we think about mental wellbeing, their product is great, they are proactive and genuinely care. Not only that but they’re really only at the start of their journey so we’re hugely excited about where our partnership with Unmind is going to take us and the impact it will have at William Hill”.
- See more: 9 in 10 UK workers affected by mental health challenges, Accenture research finds
- See more: How to start work conversations about mental health
The results come as Unmind launches its new platform designed to empower organisations and employees to track their mental health. Unmind has now reached over 250,000 employees across the globe and works with over 25 organisations including the John Lewis Partnership, Arm, William Hill, Just Eat and Centrica.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2099 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 30th September 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).